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Rio Bravo RC&D Council Assists Local Counties and Ranchers with Fever Tick Fight

Story by Melissa Blair

Ranchers in Starr County and the surrounding area and the USDA-Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) mounted patrol, also known as "tick or river riders," will now be able to safely use the dipping vat on Salineno Road in Salineno.

The Rio Bravo Resource and Conservation Development (RC&D) Area Inc. Council provided $2,500 to Starr County Commissioner Raul Peña, Jr. in Precinct 2 to assist the county in buying pipe to upgrade the dipping vat facility, which lies west of Roma.

"It was in shambles and was unsafe for the tick riders and ranchers as they worked cattle, someone could have easily gotten hurt," said Commissioner Peña. "With Rio Bravo RC&D Council's financial help, we were able to make the county's tax money go further in repairing the facility to make it safe to use."

Most of the time funding to help counties comes from the Rio Bravo RC&D Council is through grants, but this time the Council used $10,000 of their operating budget to provide piping and/or grants to refurbish dipping vat facilities in Starr, Jim Hogg, and Zapata.

"Most of these vats and facilities were built during the early battles with fever tick, and were in dire need of repair, so producers didn't have to drive to another county to dip their cattle," said Omar J. Garza, who represents Starr County Soil and Water Conservation, on the Rio Bravo Council. "Since cattle are such an important part of South Texas and the state's economy, the Council felt these funds were needed to give counties an incentive to make improvements now in order to help their community and the agricultural industry."

As part of the effort to help South Texas ranchers fight fever tick, the Rio Bravo RC&D Council provided funding to local soil and water conservation districts (SWCDs) to host landowner workshops to educate ranchers on the technical and financial assistance available through the USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service to help them install land management practices to disrupt the fever ticks life cycle. The workshops also included USDA-APHIS and the Texas Animal Health Commission who NRCS partnered with to fight fever tick.

"Texas NRCS provided more than $2.5 million and countless hours of technical assistance to help landowners in 17 counties in South Texas implement conservation practices to help them fight fever tick in 2009," said Don Gohmert, NRCS State Conservationist. "The conservation assistance was available through the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) for the Rio Grande Domestic Animal Stress/Mortality Statewide Resource Concern, since the cattle fever ticks can carry and transmit a tiny blood parasite called, babesia,' that can be deadly to cattle."

The 17 counties are Brooks, Cameron, Dimmit, Duval, Frio, Hidalgo, Jim Hogg, Jim Wells, La Salle, Kinney, Maverick, Starr, Val Verde, Webb, Willacy, Zapata, and Zavala.

The Council also provided funding and assistance to the South Texas Prescribed Burn Association to acquire equipment and the trailer needed to conduct prescribed burns in South Texas as a way to disrupt the life cycle of the fever tick and also clear brush that can hinder the tick riders and landowners from rounding up cattle when it is time to dip.

As a non-profit organization, the Rio Bravo RC&D Area, Inc. is a grass roots effort to assist local, state and other federal agencies in providing technical and/or financial assistance to rural residents in Brooks, Cameron, Duval, Hidalgo, Jim Hogg, Jim Wells, Kenedy, Kleberg, Starr, Webb, Willacy, and Zapata counties to improve their standard of living, protect their natural resources, and improve their local economy. The Rio Bravo RC&D is one of 375 volunteer councils across the United States, and is one of 22 authorized RC&D areas in Texas.

Omar Garza, of the Rio Bravo RC&D Council, tours the remodeled dipping vat facility.

Omar Garza presents the $2,500 check to Starr County Precinct 2 Commissioner Raul Peña, Jr.

Omar Garza, of the Rio Bravo RC&D Council, tours the remodeled dipping vat facility.

Omar Garza presents the $2,500 check to Starr County Precinct 2 Commissioner Raul Peña, Jr.